The Hall of Fame waived the five year waiting period for induction, as Roberto Clemente was posthumously enshrined after dying in a plane crash in the off-season while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The BBWAA also inducted Warren Spahn, while the Veterans Committee elected George Kelly, Mickey Welch and former American League executive Billy Evans. The final inductee was Monte Irvin, selected by the Negro Leagues Committee. Hall of Famers in attendance included Casey Stengel, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg and Bob Feller. Mrs. Lou Gehrig was in attendance and said she had thought of Clemente’s wife, Vera Clemente, frequently after Roberto’s death. Three writers were honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award: J. Roy Stockton of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dan Daniel of The Sporting News and Fred Lieb, who wrote for numerous New York newspapers.
ROBERTO CLEMENTE: Voted in by the writers after a special election following his death, Clemente played his entire 18 career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The winner of four batting titles and selected to play in 12 All-Star Games, he was also a dominant defensive player as he won 12 consecutive Gold Glove Awards. Clemente won the 1966 National League MVP Award after hitting .317 with 29 home runs and 119 runs batted in. The Pirates won both World Series that they played in while he was with the club, topping the New York Yankees in 1960 and the Baltimore Orioles in 1971. Clemente retired with a .317 batting average, 240 home runs, 1,305 RBI and 3,000 hits. His 276 career assists as a rightfielder are the most in baseball history.
WARREN SPAHN: Named on 83.2 percent of ballots cast in his first year of eligibility, Spahn played for the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants in his 21 year career. He won 20 or more games in a year 13 times, leading the National League in wins eight times, in complete games nine times, in strikeouts four times and in ERA three times. A 14-time All-Star, Spahn won the 1957 N.L. Cy Young Award after going 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA in 35 starts, 18 of which he finished. His 363 wins are the most ever by a left-handed pitcher and his 35 career home runs are the most hit by a National League pitcher.
BILLY EVANS: Veterans Committee selection Billy Evans joined the American League umpire crew in 1906 at the age of 22, becoming the youngest major league umpire. Working six Fall Classics in his 22-year career, Evans was lauded for fairness and superior integrity. Besides being an umpire, Evans contributed articles to several publications and authored “Umpiring from the Inside.” He also served as a front office executive for various teams after retiring.
GEORGE KELLY: Kelly played for the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers in a big league career that spanned 16 seasons. A selection of the Veterans Committee, he enjoyed seven .300 years at the plate and drove in over 100 runs four times, leading the league twice. Kelly established single-season league records for assists, put-outs, total chances and double plays by a first baseman, while leading the Giants to fours straight A.L. pennants. He retired with a .297 batting average, 148 home runs and 999 runs batted in.
MONTE IRVIN: Selected for induction by the Negro Leagues Committee, Irvin enjoyed success in both the Negro and Major Leagues. He first played for the Newark Eagles from 1937-1948, with a three year exception to serve in World War II, and then in National League for the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs from 1949-1956. A 30-year-old rookie in 1949, Irvin led the N.L. in RBI with 121 in just his second full major league season. He hit over .300 four times with New York and never struck out more than 44 times in a season. Irvin was a member of the Giants’ 1954 World Series winning team and retired with a .293 career average in MLB to go with 99 home runs and 443 runs batted in.
MICKEY WELCH: A hurler for the Troy Trojans and New York Gothams and Giants in a 13-year career, Welch was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He threw 40 or more complete games six times and finished with more than 30 wins on four occasions. Welch’s best season came in 1887 when he won 17 consecutive games on the way to a 44-11 season. On August 28, 1884, he struck out the first nine batters he faced, a record that remains unbroken. The third pitcher to reach 300 wins, Welch retired with 309 victories and 1,850 strikeouts.